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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Missile Issue Up At Meet

Aquino To Raise North Korea's Rocket Launch In ASEAN Summit

By CHARISSA M. LUCI and JC BELLO RUIZMarch 30, 2012, 3:31am

Manila, Philippines - The West Philippine Sea issue and the Pyongyang’s long-range missile test will be the two major issues that will be raised by President Benigno S. Aquino III during the 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet in Cambodia next week, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official said.

Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Teresita Barsana said North Korea’s rocket launch scheduled between April 12 and 16 will be part of the President’s agenda when he meets with his fellow Southeast Asian leaders during the ASEAN Leaders’ Retreat on April 4.

But Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, who joined the recent Second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, said there is nothing to worry about North Korea’s planned rocket launch next month.

Binay said that a United Nations official told him that the last time North Korea launch a rocket, it said it may pass through Japan, which prepared to block it. However, it never happened.

“The retreat is a meeting of all the leaders in a very informal environment and then they can discuss, they can have a freewheeling discussion on issues of common interests and of the pressing issues of the day. So that is where the President may raise the issue on North Korea,” she said.

Barsana added that President Aquino will continue to promote the country’s interest in the West Philippine Sea amid Cambodia’s purported refusal to discuss the issue following its strong alliance with China.

“He will probably bring it up during the ASEAN Summit retreat and during the exchange of views on regional and international issues. Because part of the advocacies in our ASEAN that we have, that the Philippines will be pushing for is the West Philippine Sea. So he will definitely raise it,” Barsana said.

She noted that the President will raise the issue in terms of the implementation of the Code of Conduct of State Parties in the South China Sea, citing the Manila’s insistence to establish a “zone of peace, friendship, freedom and cooperation (ZoPFFC)” in the disputed islands.

“The Philippines is part of the drafting of the Code of Conduct and that is where we can incorporate the elements that we want in our proposal for the Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship, and Cooperation. The elements of that will be discussed during the working group before the summit. So that is where we come in where we can propose, where we can push our advocacy on West Philippine Sea and maritime cooperation,” the DFA official explained.

The 10 ASEAN member-countries, including Philippines are tied up with the drafting of a formal code of conduct (CoC) in the West Philippine Sea.

Barsana rejected claims that Cambodia, being a known ally of China with Laos is not open to discuss the issue of the West Philippine Sea.

“They are not discouraging the discussion of the West Philippine issue. As a matter of fact, they are encouraging the creation, the formulation of the Code of Conduct in relation to the implementation of the declaration of the Conduct of the State Parties in the South China Sea, because they would like to see that the Code of Conduct could be formulated during the chairmanship because it was 10 years ago when the declaration was signed also in Phnom Penh. So they’re really very interested in seeing that something very positive comes out of it,” she said.

Apart from maritime security, the President is also expected to promote climate change and disaster risk reduction management, migrant workers’ protection and welfare, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to strengthen the implementation of the ASEAN Charter and to contribute to regional efforts towards achieving the establishment of an ASEAN Community in 2015.

On April 3, the ASEAN leaders are expected to discuss the following: the Phnom Penh declaration of ASEAN, One Community, One Destiny; the progress of implementation of the ASEAN Charter and roadmap for ASEAN community under the political security, economic and socio-cultural pillars; the progress of implementation of the master plan on ASEAN connectivity involving physical, institutional and people to people connectivity; realizing a drug-free ASEAN by 2015 and the adoption by ASEAN of the initiative of establishing a global movement of moderate.

On the same day, the President will join the other ASEAN leaders in meeting the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Representatives, the Civil Society Organizations Representatives, and the Youth Representatives. The Philippine-AIPA delegation will be composed of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, the AIPA Secretary General former Rep. Antonio Cuenco.

Barsana disclosed that the Presi dent, along with nine other ASEAN leaders, will also have a Royal Audience with His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia.

After the concluding session of the ASEAN Summit, the President will join three of his colleagues in another meeting, the 8th BruneiIndonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit.

“They will tackle the core strategic thrusts of BIMP-EAGA within the next five years in the fields of enhanced transport, power and communication connectivity, food basket strategy in agri-business and fisheries development, tourism development and environment and natural resource development,” Barsana disclosed.

Before his departure for Manila, Mr. Aquino is expected to meet with members of the Filipino community in Cambodia. There is an estimated 3,000 Filipinos in Cambodia, 2,000 of whom live in Phnom Penh and work in various fields in medicine, business, and NGOs, Barsana said.

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